"BECOMING STEVE JOBS"

April 20, 2015

BECOMING STEVE JOBS” BY BRENT SCHLENDER AND RICK TETZELI
 
This is a wonderful book which presents, I believe, a very balanced portrayal of Steve’s enormous strengths and the “flipsides” that came with them, those being rashness, rudeness and a  sometimes disrespect he felt for those who he believed were “bozos.”
 
It  makes a convincing case that Steve mellowed during the last decade of his life, influenced above all, I believe, by newly formed relationships with his wife Laurene, his children and with individuals, most prominently from my perspective, Jony Ive at Apple, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter at Pixar and Bob Iger at Disney, with whom he had developed tremendous trust, admiration and affection and a recognition of their extraordinary competence in areas critical to achieving the level of excellence he pursued in anything he did.
 
Steve was constantly adapting, as the authors rightly say, “following his nose, learning, trying out new directions.  He was constantly in the act of becoming.”
 
 
Pixar was a blessing to Steve Jobs in many ways.  Most importantly, in my view, in introducing him to the incredibly sound management of Ed Catmull and also the inspiration for and commitment to quality presented by John Lasseter.  It also brought to light his ability to “fight back in times of stress” and his ability to make the most of an innovation that put him ahead of anyone else in that field.  In other words, it taught him how to keep his head and fight back when cornered and how to run like the wind in the open field.  And that became the place where he really learned, albeit slowly and sometimes against his natural instincts, that sometimes the best management technique is to forego micro-management and give good, talented people the room the need to succeed." Pixar also helped him “rediscover his self-respect, made him a billionaire, and align(ed) him with people who would teach him more about management than anyone he had ever worked with.  Without the lessons he learned at Pixar, there would have been no great second act at Apple.”  
 
As John Lasseter put it:  “Watching our collaboration, seeing us make ourselves better by working together, I think that fueled Steve.  I think that was one of the key changes when he went back to Apple.  He was more open to the talent of others, to be inspired by and challenged by that talent, but also to the idea of inspiring them to do amazing things he knew he couldn’t do by himself.”
 
All of this brings to life for me, once again, that the most important things in life are founded in relationships.  
 
Still, it is interesting to note what Steve didn’t say.  As Ed Catmull noted, Steve never quite acknowledged how much he learned from him.  “The closest he got was that he said he valued what I did and knew it was very different from what he did.” For Steve, this was high praise indeed. 
 
Jobs took great pride in what Pixar represented.  “If you do your job right, what you create (a film) can last forever,” and indeed it will.  Movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story” will be with the world as long as the world exists, in my opinion, and that is a wonderful thing indeed. 
 
I was struck by what Steve did as he re-entered Apple.  He wanted to get an inspiring slogan.  From that came:  “Think Different.”  

Steve’s view of the purpose of a company, the singular role of “product” is striking.  Here is how he said it:  “The only purpose, for me, in building a company is so that that company can make products.  One is a means to another.  Over a period of time, we realize that building a very strong company and a very strong foundation of talent and culture in a company is essential to keep making great products.  The company is one of the most amazing inventions of humans, this abstract construct gets incredibly powerful.  Even so, it’s about the products.  It’s about working together with really fun, smart, creative people and making wonderful things.  It’s not about the money.  What a company is, then, is a group of people who can make more than just the next big thing.  It’s a talent.  It’s a capability.  It’s a culture.  It’s a point of view.  And it’s a way of working together to make the next thing, and the next one, and the next one.” No one has said it better than this. 
 
Jony Ive was a soulmate of Steve’s.  He was totally aligned with Steve on the importance of product:  “We trust if we do a good job, and the products do, people will like it.  And we trust that if they like it, they will buy it.  If we are competent operationally, we will make money.”  It was that simple and straightforward to Jony and Steve. 
 
Steve made this remark about creating the Apple stores.  It referenced Pixar.  “On almost every film they make, something turns out to be not quite right.  And they have an amazing willingness to turn around and do it again, until they do get it right.  It’s not about how fast you do something, it’s about doing your level best.”
 
Jim Collins identified one of the great characteristics of Steve or any great leader as a “deep restlessness.”  Collins believes this to be far more important than simple ambition or raw intelligence.  It is the foundation of resilience and self-motivation.  It is fueled by curiosity, the ache to build something meaningful, and a sense of purpose to make the most of one’s entire life.

 
Laurene Jobs’ remarks at Steve’s memorial were especially poignant.  She related how he “shaped how I came to view the world.  We were both strong-minded, but he had a fully formed aesthetic and I did not.  It is hard enough to see what is already there, to remove the many impediments to a clear view of reality, but Steve’s gift was even greater:  he saw clearly what was not there, what could be there, what had to be there.  His mind was never a tap to the reality.  Quite the contrary.  He imagined what reality lacked and he set out to remedy it.  His ideas were not arguments, but intuitions, born of a true inner freedom…Steve’s love of beauty, and his impatience with ugliness-- marked our lives….he was the most unfettered thinker I’ve ever known.  It was a deep pleasure, and a lot of fun, to think alongside him.”
 
She closed with this:  “Like my children, I lost my father when I was young.  It was not what I wanted for myself; it was not what I wanted for them.  But the sun with set and the sun will rise, and it will shine upon us tomorrow in our grief and our gratitude and we will continue to live with purpose, memory, passion, and love.”
 
*****
 
Steve Jobs’ story is an epic tribute to the power of passion, commitment to excellence, to never giving up, to following one’s nose and, in the end, it is testimony to the power of relationships, which allow one to accomplish far more than one could alone, no matter how strong and important that individual strength is, as it certainly was in the case of Steve Jobs.
 
It is also a reminder that the balance of strengths and weaknesses of individuals vary a lot;  that in the end, there is no one “style” that will accomplish great things.  In many ways, Steve Jobs is a lot like Winston Churchill.  Both made major missteps in their careers.   Both were supremely confident and  strongly opinionated.  Both could be rough on those they considered “fools” or, as Steve would say, “bozos.”  But they grew people, at least those that were strong, and in the end they learned that relationships and teamwork really did matter.  They learned from people who also were passionate about what they did and who had strengths he did not have, strengths and qualities he came to respect.  It’s a story of what makes life so interesting, especially if you are as privileged as I have been to have known people with such strong personalities, passions and character. 
 

 

SOME PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON THE ROLE OF BUSINESS ON SOCIAL AND MORAL ISSUES

April 6, 2015

THE FOLLOWING PRESENTS SOME PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON THE ROLE BUSINESS LEADERS AND CORPORATIONS SHOULD PLAY ON MORAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES

We were presented with a real drama in the States of Indiana and Arkansas, as legislation was adopted and then quickly modified which threatened to give license to business organizations to refuse service based on their religious principles to gays and lesbians.  A broad array of business and business leaders objected to this, including the nine leading businesses in Indiana, WalMart, Apple, and many others.  New legislation was quickly introduced (or that in Arkansas modified) to explicitly indicate that this “religious freedom” legislation could not be used to discriminate against marriage preference. 

During the same week, Starbuck’s CEO, Howard Schultz, passionately expressed  his and Starbuck’s recognition of same-sex marriage. He based his position primarily based on its being the right and fair action to take for his very diverse group of employees. His statement drew broad support but also criticism, with the latter usually  being couched in terms that said Starbucks should stick to serving coffee.  

This set of events raises some important questions.  To what extent do businesses have the right and indeed the obligation to voice their position on moral or ethical grounds to sway public policy?  How does business strike the right balance between its values and abiding with an existing social policy, imbedded in law and perhaps embraced by a large percentage of the population, including its employees or customers?

Getting down to cases, as CEO in 1995, I reached the position that Procter & Gamble should provide equal benefits to individuals who are in a codified same-sex partnership.  We did this at a time when the majority of Ohioans opposed same-sex marriage.  We were not taking a position that these individuals were wrong in their belief.  We were taking the position that the same-sex partnership as it was codified made it right in the name of fairness to accord our employees in such a partnership the same benefits as a married couple.  This decision proved fairly controversial, but I was confident that it was right to do.  We were not making a moral pronouncement on same-sex marriage at this time.  We were saying that in the name of fairness there was no reason to deny individuals in this relationship same-sex benefits.

A related issue being discussed at the moment relates to the “personhood” of a corporation.  Is a corporation a “person” or not?  Or, the question goes even further:  does a corporation have a “soul?”

Many, perhaps most, would say, no, a corporation is not a “person.”  As one columnist said cryptically, a corporation won’t be a “person” until it is capable of being executed in the State of Texas. 

Where do I stand on this issue?  It depends on what you mean by “person.”

I would say that business has a “responsibility” as part of society to advance and act on positions that are consistent with what as a corporate body (leaders, board of directors) represent correct moral values?  I say this because corporations play a major role in forming the cultural and value-based character of a society.

I do believe that corporations need to be humble and circumspect in taking on moral and social issues.  They have to recognize the need to balance the interests of those it serves -- its consumers, employees, shareholders and the community. 

To take an extreme example, consider a corporation's having to contemplate making a value-based decision that might severely weaken, maybe even destroy its current business. Would there ever be occasions where it would have to go this far, to almost literally have to go out of business?  I’d say yes, if its being in business meant threatening the life of consumers or anyone else. In a real sense, this consideration led to P&G’s withdrawing Rely tampons from the market decades ago.

When I say a corporation must be circumspect and humble, I mean that it must avoid becoming sanctimonious or in any way believing that it has a role of being a priest or prophet in its times.  It must speak judicially, and sometimes bravely, and it must avoid failing to do the good it can do at a given point in time because it cannot achieve perfection. 

Take the situation of Procter & Gamble in Saudi Arabia many years ago.  There was a social and perhaps even legal mandate that men and women could not work together in the same office.  P&G might have, given its commitment to gender equality, said that it would not do business in Saudi Arabia at all.  Or, I guess it could have taken the position it would violate the laws, though that would not have lasted long.  What did we do?  We set up separate office locations where women would work and where men would work and they would communicate by phone or other means between the two offices.  We did this on market research and brand work.  At the same time we advocated to change the social norms and the laws.  We believed that was right to do, not only morally (women deserved equal opportunity) but because we were certain it would be better for the business to have women and men working together in that way.  We felt advancing gender equality was right for the business and right morally.  We kept advancing this goal.

This raises another question:  is the test for a company taking a position on a moral or social issue whether it is relevant to the success of the business itself in the long-term?  Put differently, should businesses only weigh in on social and moral issues when they bear directly on having the right (and by “right” I include being morally correct) business and working environment long-term?  My answer is yes, though I’d underscore the importance of taking a long-term view.  For example, I believe the commitment to achieve a sustainable environment is one that businesses should advocate, even beyond the immediate benefit of that for the business itself.   Why?  Because I believe businesses should understand that having a world in which they or any other business could operate successfully long-term requires a sustainable environment.

Said differently, I believe that a business has social and moral obligations that go beyond simply making money in the short- or medium-term. 


THE POWER OF CONVICTION AND GENUINENESS--MR; ROGERS TESTIMONY BEFORE SENATOR PASTORE

April 4, 2015



I cannot recall ever watching testimony more impactful than this which saw Mr. Rogers testifying before Senator Pastore's Committee in 1969 in support of  public funding for public television. 

 I find it almost unique in the utter and transparent genuineness of Mr. Rogers care and love for children and in his commitment to make their lives full.  There is not one false note in the six minutes of his testimony.  Nothing was being said to make a point. It was an expression of Mr. Rogers deepest beliefs and they struck a moral and logical chord and that was why they made the sale. 

It also showcases the mutual trust and respect Mr. Rogers had for the Committee Chair, Senator Pastore, and that Senator Pastore had for Mr. Rogers, evidenced above all by the intensity in the way the Senator listened. It shows the self confidence and humanity of Senator Pastore, a man noted as he rightfully said for his toughness, as he opens his mind to what he is hearing and declares himself on the spot in support of Mr. Rogers request. 

I have often told the story of how I responded to a young P&G employee's question of how she could make a difference in such a big company, filled with so many smart people.
I told her:

-Find an idea which you believe can make a big difference. 
-Learn all you can about it, get help from other experts, seek evidence it will work,.
-Go to whomever has to approve it and present it WITH ALL OF YOUR MIND AND ALL OF YOUR HEART.
-Be prepared even having done that extremely well for the first answer to be, "but we tried that before", or "we can't afford this right now".
-This is the "moment of truth". You need to listen carefully. Maybe the idea isn't as good as you thought, or maybe you've heard something that can make it better, but also MAYBE THIS IS A BIG IDEA YOU JUST NEED TO KEEP COMING BACK  WITH MORE EVIDENCE AND MORE HEART. For I told the young woman, this is the only way I have seen really big ideas  happen. 
I was reminded of my conversation with this young woman as I watched Mr. Rogers...because I don't recall ever seeing a better example of a person presenting what 
they believe in deeply with more of their mind and heart than this-- and with a respect for the listener that made what he said all the more effective. 

There is a message in here for all of us I believe. 

For those many of you who are  too young to know Mr. Rogers here is a brief recap of his career and his children's program.

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was an American educator,  Presbyterian  minister, songwriter, author, and television host. Rogers was most famous for creating and hosting  Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968–2001), which featured his gentle, soft-spoken personality and directness to his audiences. [1]
Initially educated to be a minister, Rogers was displeased with the way television addressed children and made an effort to change this when he began to write for and perform on local  Pittsburgh-area shows dedicated to youth.  Over the course of three decades on television, Fred Rogers became an indelible American icon of children's entertainment and education, as well as a symbol of compassion, patience, and morality. [2] He was also known for his advocacy of various public causes. 
Rogers received the  Presidential Medal of Freedom, some forty honorary degrees, [4] and a  Peabody Award. He was inducted into the  Television Hall of Fame, was recognized by two Congressional resolutions, and was ranked No. 35 among TV Guide's Fifty Greatest TV Stars of All Time. [5] Several buildings and artworks in Pennsylvania are dedicated to his memory, and the  Smithsonian Institution displays one of his  trademark sweaters as a "Treasure of American History".

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NOW PLEASE WATCH THE SIX MINUTE VIDEO.
 
Thanks, John